After Record Early Snow, California Extends Dry Spell

February 9, 2022

After a very wet fall and December, fueled by huge atmospheric river rain and snow events, California snow pack was at way-over-average levels.
Then came January.


After months of extreme drought in the West triggered unprecedented water cutsand primed the landscape for massive wildfires, the final stretch of 2021 gave a tiny glimpse of hope for drought-weary Californians.

California — facing back-to-back dry years and record-breaking heat waves that pushed the drought into historic territory — got a taste of the rain it was looking for in October, when the first big storm of the season pushed onshore. Then in late December, more than 17 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada, which researchers said was enough to break decades-old records.

Climatologists were cautiously elated as they watched snow pile as high as some roofs. But they still were going to need much more to make headway on the drought, said Andrew Schwartz, the lead scientist and station manager at the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory.

“We are really concerned about the upcoming months not having as many storms,” Schwartz told CNN at the time. 

That’s exactly what happened in January, which is expected to go down as the driest on record for many parts of the state. Climatologists are now worried about the severity of the drought in the months to come. On Thursday, 66% of California was in severe drought, the US Drought Monitor reported.

Precipitation “flatlined” last month, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Statewide snowpack, which had been at 160% of normal in December, is down to around 90% due to the lack of new accumulation and some midwinter melting, he said.

Schwartz’s snow lab — where the 17 feet of snow fell in December — got just 9 inches in January. Twenty out of the state’s 30 major climate stations reported their top five driest Januarys on record.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: